Home » Archive » Optimists die

, written by Jeremy. Read the commentary.

Found on Bnoopy: a discussion of the Scotsdale Paradox.

Scotsdale was a high ranking US officer captured and imprisoned during the Vietnam War.

He said the first to die in the prison were the optimists. They died of a broken heart. They put all their energy into hoping for a future that never materialised in time.

He says:

“You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end – which you can never afford to lose – with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”

Of this Bnoopy says:

“Entrepreneurs are wired for optimism. But, in Stockdale’s story, it was the optimists who died. Don’t forget to balance optimism with fact and belief with reality.”

I think Bnoopy’s wrong. A rational entrepreneur is already a long way to failure. Irrational exuberance is the single greatest advantage of the entrepreneur.

Yet irrational exuberance is the single greatest threat to the start-up that just hit puberty.

So how is this reconciled?

Changing yourself isn’t the answer. You aren’t a failure. You are a success that needs help being more successful. That’s different and merits pride.

Stay irrational; but get some strategic help. Bring in a rationalist to help you transition, but keep them out of your dreams. We need you just as you are.

Commentary

[…] ed under: bit of this, bit of that — Jeremy @ 10:45 am In the comments for Optimists die, I wrote something about hiring “sift bandwidth”. That got me thinking of advert […]

Optimism is the fuel …not naive optimism…street smart optimism…Hope may be a better statement..and belief in yourself and what you are trying to do..and what you have to offer..maybe even a better word confidence..I am reading a new book on confidence by a professor from Harvard..Street smart tough confidence..it is very powerful and the market knows
and is attracted to this ..protecting it..growing it and leveraging it

Thanks for backing me up Alan. Hope, confidence, and optimism are good words; Scotsdale predicts you’re on the verge of extinction.

My point wasn’t “entrepreneurs are silly people”. Irrational doesn’t mean naïve. But both can be characteristics of entrepreneurs.

To become an entrepreneur without considering the odds of success is naïve. To become an entrepreneur after recognizing your odds of success are less than 15% is irrational.

But that’s not bad (and that was my point). I agree we (the market) are attracted to “street smart optimism” but we get to keep going when you die. You don’t. So part of leveraging, protecting and growing your advantage is finding ways to inject strategic rationality into your decision matrix (without jeapordizing your irrational edge).

Unlike Bnoopy, I think the rational entrepreneur is a dead one because the rational entrepreneur is a business person. And managers can’t win in startups.

So call it what you like, so long as you can sleep at night. Just don’t forget to lift up your head and look around sometimes. And if you need some help buy some sift bandwidth.